Why #IDidNotReport

All this lack of sleep. All this having to continually focus on a single topic to keep it on track. All the sneers. All the yelling. And what finally makes me just throw my hands up and sit down and cry? [Warning: There's a fair chance I'm about to do the same to you.]

This.*

look it’s all ok for people to say she can decide what she wants to do with the threats. NO IT IS NOT!

if you are raped and do not report it and someone else is raped, you are partially responsible for that rape.

In this case, Ophelia has an obligation to report the threat and to share with other women, jerk men do not just attend TAM. They ATTEND lots of skeptic/humanist conferences. NOT outing this guy and reporting him, is like “oh well, I’m safe, good luck to the rest of you women.”

No, as a woman Ophelia has an obligation to her fellow women to keep them safe, and also to make sure these guys don’t “win”. To say “I quit” is to say “you win jerk man that has threatened me” and he has learned “wow threatening women really works well! I will try it more often!”

She can not attend and should not if she feels unsafe. But not posting the threat and who made it? That is not reporting a crime against women. Women don’t do that to women.

Oh, don’t they? When I was sexually assaulted, one of my best friends was sitting next to me. What did she do about it? Well, afterward, she told my date what had happened so he wouldn’t feel so bad about things not having gone as well as they could have. She didn’t do anything at the time.

What did my date do? He got angry that his dad had done something like this. Again. Embarrassed too, I think. He didn’t really talk to me about it.

That was it. That was the help I had in dealing with what happened.

I had other friends, too, but how could I tell them about this? Either they were in the same boat I was with regards to resources, or they had lives that were so far removed from anything like this (or so I thought then) that they couldn’t understand. Telling them about this would have required bringing them to a place where they could feel the same vulnerability I had. It would have meant changing their lives, assuming I could have done that at all.

Telling my mother certainly would have meant changing her life. She would have done it, but I carried too much responsibility back then to ask.

Telling the authorities would have meant changing my life even more than it had been changed. It would have meant drawing attention to myself when what I wanted more than anything in the world was to disappear permanently. It would have meant everyone looking at me when I was already painfully self-conscious. It would have meant explaining why I was on the other side of a state line, why I was drinking at age 15, why I was with the people I was with–all at a time when I already knew there was nothing I could do right and that everything was my fault.

I had no resources for coping with the results of telling my friends, my mother, or the authorities. The only thing I had the strength to do was put the whole thing aside and refuse to look at it at all for ten years. It was another 15 before I could write about it. I’m still not sure I can talk about it out loud.

That was what I could do. That and somehow survive, despite being exceptionally vulnerable.

Does my fragility mean that the person who assaulted me went on to assault other girls? Maybe. Likely even.

Here’s the thing that keeps me from killing myself over that, though. (Yes, I mean that literally.) I’m not a victim of sexual assault who just happened to be too weak to report. I’m a victim of sexual assault because I was too weak to report.

The guy who assaulted me didn’t assault every woman or even every girl he came across. That isn’t how this works. It isn’t any sort of “bad luck” that some women are assaulted repeatedly while others aren’t. It isn’t an accident that children and women who are poor, immigrants, non-white, non-gender-conforming, etc. and on are assaulted at much higher rates. They are assaulted exactly because they are the people with the fewest resources to report and fight back.

They choose those of us who have been pushed to the edge of the herd. There’s a reason we refer to them as predators. It’s because the analogy fits.

Not only is it my assailant’s fault that he assaulted whomever he assaulted, but it’s his fault that it took me as long as it did to say anything at all. I did not report because the person who assaulted me did a very good job of finding someone who would not report. And none of what went into that was my fault.

*I got something similar at the start of all this, but I was less worn down then.

Comments

  1. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    What Willow said there in that thread was SERIOUSLY out of line.

    I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

    I may have lost a very young, very beloved cousin to suicide very recently because I didn’t report the sexual abuse of a family member we had in common and only after her suicide did I realize that the same thing may have happened to her, likely DID happen to her – only I didn’t even consider the possibility because she’s almost 15 years younger than me and I always believed it was somehow my fault that I was abused, something inherently defective in me that led to the abuse.

    Now she’s dead and I’ll never know if I could have prevented her death and suffering.

    Thanks so much for this post, Stephanie. I really needed this.

  2. ischemgeek says

    What Willow said in that thread is complete victim-blaming bullshit, if you’ll pardon the language.

    Sexual assault is only ever the fault of the assailant. Nobody else.

  3. says

    What ischemgeek said, the comment is pure victim blaming, and I can see how it blind-sided you. I wish I had something more constructive to offer, I am utterly discouraged by what is going on in response to totally reasonable suggestions for making things better, and hope you aren’t letting the bastards grind you down. *free Internet hugs offered*

  4. says

    They are assaulted exactly because they are the people with the fewest resources to report and fight back.

    This, I think, is most of why I hate the bullshit victim-blaming that always happens in these cases. The rest is the complete lack of empathy exhibited by the person doing the victim-blaming.

  5. Jodi says

    I agree that what they said was way out of line. You cannot place this burden on people who are already dealing with such a mental burden. I have not been raped but I have dealt with situations where I simply could not act, and when the situation was over I could not think about it. There is only so much that the human brain can handle and process at a time or sometimes at all. Asking victims to be courageous for the sake of others is completely ignoring the very complex things happening psychologically. There is already someone much better suited to carrying the burden of the safety of others, the person responsible.

  6. says

    At least that comment was met with a lot angry push-back (and some calmer ones too) from people who totally get it.

  7. Frogmistress says

    I’m so sorry, Stephanie. I’m sorry for what happened to you.

    Victim blaming is never ok.

  8. Timid Atheist says

    I occasionally wonder if my rapist had gone on to rape other women by getting them so drunk they black out. (Though now I’m wondering if the rapist didn’t also fiddle with my drinks. I’d never blacked out before or since.) But at the time I was so desperate to get away from my rapist and never think about what had happened again, I didn’t even think of reporting the rapist to the police or telling anyone the rapist knew what had happened.

    I’m so sorry for what happened to you Stephanie. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for making sure others know and are aware that it is not okay to victim blame and that it is not the victim’s fault if it happens to someone else.

  9. Onamission5 says

    I hate with every fiber of my being that we, as victims, have to examine with a fucking microscope any way we may be perceived as having Done Something Wrong before we can so much as tell another person what happened to us. Then, in addition, we also have to carry the might be/must be lying meme.

    It makes it so that 28 years later I still can’t quite outright call what happened to me rape, even though he was 24 and I was 13, because the trauma itself and the fallout thereafter was more than enough burden for me. I can’t open myself up to accusations of lying or victim blame, or having people who weren’t there overskepticalness the event to death. So instead of rape, instead of sexual assault, I say I was taken advantage of. I call it an “event” in my life, like it was a fucking birthday party or something. I hate that I still, all these years later, feel like I have to remove the implication of violence in what happened to me in order to be taken seriously. I have to soften the blow for the listener, that they might soften their potential attacks against me.

    I am sorry so many of us have shared experiences of the immensely traumatic and shitty kind.

  10. CatherineD says

    You are absolutely right Stephanie, assailants profile their victims. They look for someone who is easy to exploit and manipulate.

    When I was 15 my mom forced me to go to a religious summer camp run by the dioceses. One of the girls attending had been in the news, well her story had; she had been assaulted by a teacher. Around the same time a huge sexual abuse scandal emerged in the RC church near where I lived at the time, and the Bishop issued a statement saying that the victims had “wanted it”, those words exactly. He also made ridiculous statements that the true victim was the Church and her priests. Well this Bishop decided to show up at this camp, shortly after making his pathetic statement to “bless us with his presence”. The girl that I mentioned earlier, got up and asked the Bishop why he would say something so hateful about sexual abuse victims. (BRAVE I know!) The Bishop tried to scold her, shame her even, telling her that she didn’t understand, that the Church is always right. First we booed him, he got angry and red-faced and then we all got up and left him talking to himself.

    We stood together in a circle, singing. ignoring him. We refused to listen to anymore of his bullshit. He ending up stomping off in a huff demanding an apology, he never got one.

  11. Millicent says

    I am so sorry for what happened to you, Stephanie.

    I did not report my rape. I was raped at a party, where I had been drinking, by a man who I had met there. There was absolutely no way that I would have put myself through the police interrogation (“Why were you drinking? Don’t you think you might have led him on? You were wearing a short skirt, right? Why did you go with him to a quieter room? Don’t you think you might have given him the wrong impression?”). I could not have articulated all of that at the time — I was 17 years old — but I had definitely absorbed all the cultural bullshit around rape, and I knew, KNEW, that no one would believe me and I would be blamed (and of course I did spend years blaming myself).

    Anyone who yelps “Just report it to the cops already!” has no idea what they’re talking about.

  12. Anna says

    I still feel that guilt about not reporting every day. It keeps me up, gives me nightmares makes me hate every fibre of my being sometimes.

    People like WIllow reminding any of us of this hurts. Reading what she said made me feel the shame and the guilt again like a open sore. Worst part is I am now asking myself if I really do deserve that shame.

    People need to stop and think. Words do have power to hurt, and on subjects like this its a terrible hurt.

    Thank you Stephanie for being a voice that tells me and others that we are not to blame. Perhaps hearing it enough I can begin to believe it.

  13. says

    Anna, you survived. You did it despite the best efforts of the person who assaulted you. You did it despite all the people who had nothing more to offer you afterward than their own selfish concerns. You did it despite all the things that made you vulnerable in the first place.

    You’re definitely doing something right.

  14. Millicent says

    And as the comments pile up from people who did not report, and who feel horrible guilt about it (I have wondered for almost 30 years how many other women my rapist assaulted, and felt pain, and shame, that I did not try to stop him from hurting anyone else), I wonder if any of the “Just report!!” commenters will apologize for their thoughtless, hurtful remarks.

    I won’t hold my breath.

  15. Momo Elektra says

    Anna, and Stephanie, I am so sorry. You are not to blame. I think you know that, but it can’t be repeated often enough, I think.
    -
    And I know there’s a difference between “knowing” and “knowing”.
    -
    (First means “heard/read it”, second means “understood it”)
    -
    The last week showed that many, many people here have a story to tell, that what happened to you is not rare, sadly, and that victim blaming is an, also not rare, asshole’s reaction and should just fucking stop.
    -
    I know very well why one wouldn’t report.
    -
    When I was younger I was sort of everyone’s go-to person, so I heard some really bad shit. Molested children, physical and psychological abuse, and even though I listened, I never reported. It never occurred to me to do so. They didn’t come to me to save them, they came to me because I would listen, and sometimes give advice or just comfort. If they had wanted me to report, I would have, but they didn’t.
    -
    Those who told me made it clear they didn’t want me to report at all (because of fear, because of shame, because of general worry), but really I didn’t because beside the fact that they didn’t want me to I didn’t know who to, and what consequences it would have for those who confided in me and myself. I don’t think I was actively scared no one would believe me, but it was all a big scary jungle I didn’t know how to navigate.
    -
    That guilt of not trying to stop bad things happening to them lasts until this day and I wasn’t even aware of it.
    -
    And even when it happened to me, I didn’t report it, not even to my mother (until years later).
    -
    -
    Details below:
    -
    -
    One day, when I was about 5, we went to a public pool. I had diving glasses and was diving and noticed one man was, in the pool with warm water and jet streams, hanging his penis into the stream for friction. That itself I don’t know what it made me feel, it was so surreal (but not necessarily disturbing, I was no stranger to masturbation at that age), but then this happened:
    -
    I was a child, in a public pool, under water with my diving glasses, seeing him being stimulated, but when he then saw me, under water, in that public place, with other people around us, and made signs for me to come to him.

    That seriously freaked me out. I swam away in panic and went to my mother but never mentioned it. I forgot about it for years. Only sometimes would it come up in my memory.
    -
    People who lack those kinds of experiences or who can’t connect on an emotional level with other people’s problems tend to think this is all a simple matter which should be resolved quickly and thus put blame when it isn’t.

    But it isn’t a simple matter. It’s terribly confusing. And complicated. I could have told my mother, she would have believed me. But I think now that even then I just wanted to forget it happened. I was not hurt in any way. But it was traumatizing.
    -
    It’s not always possible to report. For many reasons. So people should shut the fuck up implying reporting would solve everything.
    -
    -
    Sorry for the rant, that was a long time coming.

  16. says

    Wow. You are so wonderful for speaking up on this issue and so strong to be able to write about such a painful experience. I was literally moved to tears reading this. Thanks so much.

    Speaking of thanks, I was talking to a young woman today about an older woman we both respect, and she started saying how great it was that this older woman is so successful and so strong and such a great role model for younger women … and then went on to the “and why do people need to confront sexism all the time and be so negative, anyway” kind of thing. Thanks to reading your blog and some of the comments here, and maybe all the way back to some of the responses to “Dear Muslima” I was totally prepared to tell her something along the lines of “Well, it’s great that some people can still succeed despite the sexism, and it is annoying when everyone wants to tell you that their particular cause is so important that you should devote yourself to it (whether it’s feminism or anything else), and it’s also really important that we celebrate and support the people who do choose to devote themselves to making the world better in whatever dimension they care most about.” So, thanks also for continuing to talk about these issues in a way that prepared me to have that conversation in what I hope was a productive way.

  17. says

    I am sorry, for you and for all of us, that a bunch of shallow fools have such a poor understanding of social dynamics and their own privilege that they could demand others take on the risks of reporting.

    I am so very sorry.

  18. AnyBeth says

    I did not initially report the first assault because I was a little kid who had no idea how wrong what the abuser did to me was and because he made threats he’d get me in trouble if I said anything. I did not report it later because my mother first made it clear if anything happened, it was my fault and within a week of me telling her, convinced herself and dad it could never have happened. If that weren’t enough, I soon found out this man had molested many women (as girls) in the extended family (including my mom) over decades. This was the big family secret no one talked about. I didn’t report because I would face verbal attacks from family that’d only exacerbate my PTSD.

    I did report the guy (15ish) who, at school, assaulted me and threatened rape. (I reported what he did but not in terms of sexual assault because I was under the impression that “sexual assault” was just another word for rape.) I reported to my mother, who laughed at me and told me it was nothing. I reported to the school and the fellow-student got little consequences. I didn’t report to the police because I was under the impression that I was nuts for thinking the guy did something so wrong. My spiral into depression was just evidence that the real problem was that I thought there was a problem.

    If the people I’d initially told about either had supported me, I might have reported to the police, but they weren’t and I didn’t. Good thing my PTSD is much better now. Instead of finding the idiocy about TAM horribly triggering, I “just” get uncomfortable and/or incredibly pissed off.

  19. says

    I…I have no words. I’ve learned more from this post and its comments than I could have imagined. Thanks to everyone for taking a wrecking ball to my privilege–and for reminding me that there’s still much to demolish.

  20. smhll says

    Around the same time a huge sexual abuse scandal emerged in the RC church near where I lived at the time, and the Bishop issued a statement saying that the victims had “wanted it”, those words exactly.

    First I was thinking OMFG, how outrageous.

    But then I remembered that old school rape culture wasn’t stay home or wear a burqa (as discussed in Pharyngula comments this week). Old school rape culture was if the perpetrator experiences arousal, it’s because the victim is chockful of alluring sinfulness. BARF!

    I needed to remember that.

  21. AnyBeth says

    @Tom Foss (19)
    And thank you for what you said just there. Speaking only for myself, so much of this has been so disgusting and it’s been discouraging the abhorrent response has continued so long. Hearing the discussion has helped someone “get it” in whatever way is heartening. What you said when you “had no words” made me smile. Thanks for saying.

  22. says

    My experiences… well, if the cops wouldn’t believe me about his physical abuses, why would they believe me when I say he also raped me? So… why bother reporting anything?

    /hopeless

  23. Emptyell says

    This post and these comments are the most affecting and powerful that I have seen through the course of this whole fiasco. Thank you all for your courage. And your strength. And your spirit.

    You could so easily become the mythical misandrists the MRAs keep flapping about but rather you remain positive and hopeful in spite of all the assholes. To describe this as a stark contrast to the nasty and malevolent whining about suggesting that maybe guys should be a little more considerate is such gross understatement that it’s impossible to put them on the same scale.

    I wish there were more I could do or say. I guess the best I can offer is to say that all this has inspired me to go from being a passive supporter to a more active feminist. I still have lots of concerns and reservations about how to go about this but this is not the place to go into it. Just be aware that there are guys like me struggling to figure out what we can do to help and thrilled that there are women working so hard against such obstacles to make this a better society for us all.

  24. Candra Rain says

    I didn’t report (nor did my mother or the other child’s mother) when my friend (a male) and I were kidnapped by older kids in the second grade and I was assaulted sexually (no rape). I did have to change schools and leave all my friends because one of the boys was in my grade school.

    I didn’t report when a boy at my high school was watching me shower alone after my basketball practice because he “hadn’t done anything”.

    I didn’t report when I was drugged and raped when I was 18 because I couldn’t have identified the guy (guys?) due to the drug.

    I didn’t report when I was home alone for the summer when I was 19 (parents in another state) and a man broke in and I woke to find a knife at my throat. I have bad eyesight without my contacts and again, couldn’t have identified the guy. He also said he knew me and had been watching me, so he knew my parents were gone. No rape that time, just PTSD that continues to this day (more than 32 years later).

    I didn’t report when a date, on a first date, tried to rape me after dinner because it was expensive and “I owed him”. I just ran.

    All of this was more than 30 years ago and if you think the climate now is chilly towards women who DO report, you have no idea how it was years ago. Unless you were near death in a hospital with broken bones and bruises everywhere, and preferably a knife wound or two, you were definitely considered to be “at fault”.

    Were you drinking?
    Were you out late?
    Were you in a bar?
    Were you in his apartment?
    Why were you wearing (fill in the blank)?
    Why did you go with him?
    Why didn’t you tell him no?

    At the age I am now and knowing what I do about the science available (DNA) etc., and with an amazing and supportive husband, I would most likely report. Most likely. SMH, I just don’t know.

  25. Erista (aka Eris) says

    My friend was raped by her cousin.

    She came to me first, told me first.

    I convinced her to report.

    The police called her a liar. They said he was too “good” of a young man to have done it. They insisted that something must have been “wrong” with her for her to lie like this.

    She vowed never to report again.

    I can’t blame her.

    I find myself wondering if the report did anything good at all. He was never held accountable. He is still viewed positively in the community. He got a way with the crime of rape, but she did not get away with the crime of being raped or the crime of reporting. It shredded her when she was most vulnerable.

    I also wonder, if I was raped, if I could endure the punishment she was made to bear. Would I be able to stand it, or would I throw myself off a bridge? I don’t know.

  26. KT says

    “Old school rape culture was if the perpetrator experiences arousal, it’s because the victim is chockful of alluring sinfulness. BARF!”

    Unfortunately that’s not all the way gone yet. At a former workplace of mine an office manager who had received complaints of sexual harassment was dealt with by being transferred across the country to our office. Before he arrived, we were handed a new dress code full of all kinds of body parts we weren’t allowed to show. A co-worker of mine was made to cover up or be sent home to change when she wore a dress that revealed her SHOULDER BONES (oh lala). Incidentally she sat with her back to the glass-walled office of said bureau manager. Apparently having to look at her bare shoulderbones all day was too much for him and she had to put those sexy beasts away.

  27. Ysanne says

    I can completely sympathise when a rape victim doesn’t report what happened for a reason like this one:

    I had no resources for coping with the results of telling my friends, my mother, or the authorities. The only thing I had the strength to do was put the whole thing aside and refuse to look at it at all for ten years. It was another 15 before I could write about it. I’m still not sure I can talk about it out loud.

    That was what I could do. That and somehow survive, despite being exceptionally vulnerable.

    And no one could really blame you for that.

    But would you really compare Ophelia’s case of getting a nasty email to such an extremely traumatizing experience?
    Is it really an appropriate reaction to not fight back, to not give the threatening asshole the hell they deserve for the shit they’re trying to pull?
    Doesn’t it trivialize assault/rape/whatever victims’ trauma when people see themselves as similarly traumatized and incapacitated by an email threat?

    They are assaulted exactly because they are the people with the fewest resources to report and fight back.

    Very well said.
    It would be great if victims could generally fight back, it would probably go a long way in eliminating harassment. It’s very sad that by traumatizing their victims so badly, attackers maximize their opportunities to find and hurt their next victim.
    And this is exactly why it’s important that those people who are able to really do fight back!
    Because it helps those who are too to fight back themselves! Because it protects the next potential victims (i.e. people who may not be able to protect themselves). Because somebody needs to stand up to the bullies to stop them, and who else if not those who are still strong enough to do so?

  28. says

    I was homeless when I was 13. At 14, I got raped. Gang raped. I fought back as best as I could against my attackers — ALL whom were older boys/young men. Thinking naively that “the policeman was my friend” (because that’s the crap they spoon-feed you when you’re a kid in 1st grade when they bring Officer Obie in on show-and-tell day), I went to the police.

    I was not only disbelieved, but I was harangued by the cops and told I “asked for it” — because being poor, an orphan, homeless, and being all that while Living While Female (assigned from birth), there was no economic opportunity out there for me so I could support myself outside of working as a stripper — all while trying to keep a low profile at my high school about it. So of course, as a poor “sex worker” (::cough, gag, choke::) on society’s margins, I held the unenviable membership card in the club of disposable, “un-rape-able” women. Like the murder victims of Robert “Willie” Pickton.

    It wasn’t a “lifestyle choice” for me. If there would have been ANY realistically meaningful alternative for me at that time, I would have taken it. But there wasn’t, so I didn’t. Poor women and girls are the world’s throw-aways. And my rapists got away with it — with the full blessing and support of society.

    Adding insult to injury, an upcoming first female Philadelphia district attorney told me that if I wanted to pursue criminal charges against the young men who raped me, she would have to counter-file criminal assault charges against me for the broken bones two of my three attackers received from me defending myself. She was profiled by the local NOW chapter as a shining example of feminism’s accomplishments for equality at that time. I literally had NO allies or friends. There is nothing more silencing than that!

    It was not until very recently in my middle-aged years that I felt comfortable enough to reclaim my feminist creed and lost the shame of publicly embracing the thoughts and writings of Andrea Dworkin — even though almost ALL men hate/hated her (Gee, I wonder why?). She was another poor Jewish girl (like me) from a dangerous inner-city (Camden, NJ) ghetto that no one wanted to acknowledge as being someone who mattered, as being human enough for harm against her to matter. I can SO relate!

    The same “feminists” that held up the female district attorney who was unsympathetic to homeless 14 yr old rape victims, were the same “feminists” that eschewed the radical feminism of Andrea Dworkin — a survivor of rape and human trafficking in a country where prostitution is LEGAL (Holland). They were the ideological antecedents of the Chill Girls today who think that it’s perfectly OK to throw their “sisters” under the wheels of patriarchy’s shit train, who sanitize the language of the ugly reality of the sex industry as an “occupational choice”, and who blame victims of harassment, assault and rape for not reporting when there is no one in this shit-filled world that EVER gave a fuck about us. And no, I refuse to be polite about it — because there is NOTHING polite about rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and discrimination, human trafficking, and prostitution without real options.

  29. Millicent says

    I don’t understand why you don’t see what Ophelia is doing as “fighting back,” Ysanne. She has communicated clearly with JREF the reason that she has withdrawn as a speaker, and she is communicating clearly with the rest of the world the same thing. How could her presence at TAM make the issue clearer (it seems to me that by withdrawing she is actually bringing more attention to the problem, not less)?

    Oh, but are you assuming that the solution to this problem (harassment and threats) is bottom-up? Individuals should hold tough and be strong and that’ll show those harassers, by golly? Yeah, it doesn’t work like that. The solution has to be top-down: the organization that runs the event (JREF in this instance) needs to have a clear harassment policy that all of its employees understand and can implement, and they need to have very clear policies about how to handle threats to speakers. Right now, they don’t appear to have either of those, so it would be pointless and potentially dangerous for Ophelia to make some sort of “stand.”

  30. says

    Erista:

    The police called her a liar. They said he was too “good” of a young man to have done it. They insisted that something must have been “wrong” with her for her to lie like this.

    The EXACT same scenario was routine, and as American as apple pie during those “good old days” that the MRA/PUA rapists’ rights bowel movement thinks is such a good deal for us. And before women finally won the right to have access to birth control (Eisenstadt v. Baird, 1972) and early term elective abortion(Roe v. Wade, 1973), the rape victims were also further tortured with compulsory pregnancy/childbirth, for which they were then subjected to ADDITIONAL punishment for, being “loose women” who were “feeble-minded” and all — like Carrie Buck.

    In the notorious US Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, prominent eugenicist H.H. Laughlin testified without ever having met Carrie Buck, that it was his “expert opinion” that Carrie Buck was “part of the shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of anti-social whites of the South.” This loaded charge was leveled against Carrie Buck because she gave birth to an out-of-wedlock daughter and as a result, was involuntarily committed to the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded by her foster parents J.T. and Alice Dobbs in March of 1924.

    Carrie Buck got pregnant as the result of a rape committed by J.T. Dobbs’ nephew Clarence Garland. J.T. Dobbs had Carrie institutionalized to shield the Dobbs family from embarrassment. Since Dobbs was an affluent white male and Carrie was a “disposable” poor white girl, society discarded Carrie Buck. No one cared about the truth of Carrie’s rape, forced pregnancy, wrongful incarceration, nor the injustice of the permanent sterilization performed on her without her consent at the Colony.

  31. says

    FWIW, I also did not report and find that sort of blaming past victims for future crimes infuriating. You don’t get to demand that someone else be a hero.

  32. Cyranothe2nd says

    I was sexually assaulted at the age of 8. While at school, some older boys held me down and touched me sexually. I DID report it–to my mom, and then to the principal. And nothing happened. I think it was then that I knew I wasn’t safe.

    A few months after that, a 14 year old boy attempted to assault me. I was saved by his sister walking in. I told no one.

  33. athyco says

    My high school chemistry teacher gave a test score for note taking twice a grading period. Once when a classmate was out for over a week, his mom called the school to ask if he could get someone’s notes. The chem teacher asked me on Thursday if I would take my notes to him Friday after school. The school secretary gave me directions to his home since the extent of our relationship was that we were in the same chemistry class.

    When I arrived, he answered the door in a bathrobe. Okay, home sick, makes sense. He invited me into the kitchen for some cookies and to talk about the notes, explaining that his mother had just left to buy groceries. I’m sitting next to him at his kitchen table, making improvements on my handwritten notes, when he parts the bathrobe to show me that he’s naked underneath it and tries to pull my free hand to his erection. I bolted, and he laughed.

    At home, I told my parents immediately. My father’s first question was “Why did you go into his house?” All following questions were about what I had or hadn’t observed, where my judgment had been faulty. At the end of it, my parents’ “understanding” was that I had been sexually active with him and was trying to present this story to head off suspicion in case they somehow got wind of it later. Their “evidence” was that when I bolted–I left my notes. Logically, of course, I wouldn’t have left them behind if he’d been so disgusting.

    Telling them about this would have required bringing them to a place where they could feel the same vulnerability I had. It would have meant changing their lives, assuming I could have done that at all.

    You wrote that part about your friends, but I think shrinking away from that vulnerability fit my parents, too. It may fit many people who victim blame and pontificate on the exact what/how/when to respond and report.

    Thank you for this post.

  34. Rilian says

    … i was
    raped…
    by my boyfriend.
    i feel sick admitting it. but i know it’s true.
    and i didn’t report him
    because i love him. i feel pathetic.

  35. says

    I was never raped. But after years of being bullied and only getting “just ignore it” from the faculty? After the damn ‘counselor’ they brought in to help me told me that at the only opportunity I had? After I had to stop socializing because every time I tried I’d end up getting bullied?

    Hell fucking yes I understand why you all don’t report. It’s fucking impossible when you’re told that your report is super serious and cause for concern and authorities should be trusted right until you, y’know, report shit.

    Jacqueline #29: With regards to your bit about the economic realities that force women into sex trafficking, Greta Christina recently wrote a wonderful piece on skepticism and general social justice, specifically calling for skepticism to be applied to political issues regardless of the complaints of ‘litmus tests’ that apparently are cropping up (based on experience and the comments, those complaints seem to be coming exclusively from conservatives — of note is in that thread I took one person to task for whining about how we need to respect anti-choicers by not calling them anti-choice, and another for emptily going on about being open to conservatives because “diversity of ideas” when conservatives have consistently been on the wrong side of debates since forever).

    Of course, by all indications opening this debate ‘in full’ will probably just pull a few more libertarians and “centrists” out of the woodwork to get beaten around in the comments here before they scurry off to complain about how liberal the skeptical movement is getting.

  36. says

    I just read Greta’s article that you posted the link to. Thank you for sharing that. It is definitely a stellar article.

    And as to the upper-middle class heteronormative white cis male doodz who pitch a hissy over how “liberal” the skeptic movement is getting, consider:

    skepticism IS liberal in the sense that it would be CONSERVATIVE to adamantly insist on keeping the status quo of extra privileges for religious corporations, because “conservative” by definition means conservation of power and privilege.

  37. Rilian says

    thank you, jacqueline
    i hesitate to point this out, but i am not a woman.
    but really thank you for your comment to me. this is the first time i’ve ever mentioned it and your response makes me feel a tiny amount better.

  38. Brigit says

    I never reported when I was molested by a family member (a pediatrician, to boot) as a very young child. Why would I? Even back then I’d heard my dad talk about how women lie about assault, “change their minds afterwards”, or say no when it’s “way too late”. I hadn’t said no to my attacker because I was confused and paralyzed by fear. So it was obviously my fault. He said to me that if I told anyone no one would believe me and my parents wouldn’t love me anymore – and it was obvious for me he was telling the truth. He’s still out there, practicing medicine.
    Sadly, me saying anything now will end up with me being demonized for telling lies about this oh so pious pillar of society and having to stay in exile because my home nation is small and my family has a prominent role in some of its circles. And I refuse to sacrifice my reputation and career (I’m in a field related to most of “the family’s” field) to this fucking asshole – I’ve already sacrificed enough.

  39. says

    @ Rilian: thank you, jacqueline
    i hesitate to point this out, but i am not a woman.

    It doesn’t matter, Rilian. You’re a human being. No one deserves to be stripped of their human rights and personal dignity. No one. ::HUGS::

  40. Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre says

    I never comment but after reading this post and all the comments I wanted to express my admiration for Stephanie and all the other supportive commenters (is that a word?).
    I do admire you because it is so clear from what you write that you are advocates for human rights (and the rights of victims of abuse seem to me some of the most prominent of human rights) not just in reaction to your personal experiences but for a rational and principled desire to make the world a more just place.
    This is a very inspiring thing to witness: I come from an abusive background and the resulting self pity/hopelessness has led me to abstain from any kind of public discourse on ethical/feminist issues. Your example made me think how I can change my attitude and my actions, in order to become a principled, less selfish person.
    (I do apologize if my meaning is not clear and quite OT – I’m not a EMT nor a good writer – sorry)

  41. screechymonkey says

    Over at Slate.com, regular columnist Emily Yoffe has a piece posted describing three sexual assaults she experienced as a child and a young adult, and why she did not report them. The last one was by now-deceased, then-Congressman Father Robert Drinan. She notes:

    But as much as I hate to say it, I’m not so sure I would advise her, if she were a young adult, to report a groping by a powerful man. As we’ve seen too many times, coming forward in a case like that opens a woman up to character evisceration. Father Drinan died in 2007, and I’m aware that I’ll be assailed for besmirching the memory of a distinguished man.

    And sure enough, just above her story, Slate has posted the following:

    In response to Emily Yoffe’s DoubleX story “My Molesters,” Father Robert Drinan’s niece Ann Drinan has requested that Slate print this statement on behalf of the family: “We find it odd that anyone would come forward with this allegation decades later when our uncle is dead and in no position to defend himself.”

  42. Ysanne says

    Millicent,
    when I wrote the comment, the only action that I had read about was along the lines of mentioning the pull-out in a reply to an email about bio details for the conference page. And up to the point where I read most comments, the feel of the thread was like “don’t post the threat, don’t even try to hold the person who wrote it responsible, because no one’s going to believe or help anyway, because that’s what happens to rape victims and they’re traumatized too so they can’t report in the first place” — I found this very, very frustrating to read, for the reasons I pointed out in my first post.

    I’m very glad that more actual fighting back has happened in the meantime!

  43. Ysanne says

    Oh and PS and I should read blogs in a different order: Glad to see as well that this kind of stuff does get cleared up.

  44. Cara says

    and it is annoying when everyone wants to tell you that their particular cause is so important that you should devote yourself to it (whether it’s feminism or anything else

    Wow.

    It’s going to be a lot more “annoying” when that young woman gets a little older and the cute has gone, so the misogyny can’t be explained away by, “Oh, they just wants to fuck me”.

  45. says

    X selects victims who have property Y.
    Therefore people with property Y aren’t at fault for having property Y.

    The second statement is true but the first has nothing to do with it. Every property of a person is an interaction of genes, which you don’t control, and environment, which you don’t control except through a feedback mechanism that depends on previous enviornments and genes. There is no such thing as contracausal free will. Blame is a folk-psychological fiction by which the herd elicits compliance with social norms. Blame and punishment are only justifiable as pragmatic means of restraining/deterring/correcting harmful behavior.

  46. says

    You’ve got the logic wrong on that one.

    X selects victims who have property Y.
    Property Y prevents people from interfering with the further behavior of X.
    People with property Y are not at fault for having property Y.
    Therefore, X’s victims are not at fault for not interfering with the further behavior of X.

  47. says

    [Massive trigger warning]

    I reported.

    After I was raped, I took a bath. Now, my dad is a cop, I watch Law and Order, I know that’s the last thing you’re supposed to do. I still don’t know why I did it; I was on autopilot afterwards, just gathered up my clothes and somehow made it home, and I don’t remember much of anything until I “came to” sitting on my bed staring at the phone.

    After that, I did all the right things. I called the police. I submitted to the horrible rape kit–a necessity, I know, and I’m truly grateful that it’s now common procedure, but at the time, it felt worse than being raped. I answered their questions. Again and again and again and again I went through it for the police. They had me get down on the ground and act it out. I did it, even though I was nearly hysterical by the time I was done. I did everything they asked.

    And in the end, they called me a liar. They told me I was crazy. The burned labia, the torn vagina, the deep tissue bruising that lasted over a month, the fractured wrist…I had done that to myself, you see, because I’m an attention whore, I’m bipolar, I have a history of self-injury and a suicide attempt. They locked me in a tiny room with two large male detectives, refused to allow my rape advocate or anyone else in, and threatened me until I recanted. “Tell us you’re sorry, that you made a mistake, and we’ll let you go.” So I broke, I repeated what they wanted. Before I could go, the lead detective made me give him a hug.

    My parents don’t talk about it. I could see the confusion and uncertainty, which hurts worse than anything else, so I don’t talk about it. My “friends” talked. The rumors spread. A couple stood with me. For the rest, I was juicy gossip for a long a time. I’ve learned from other rape victims that I had two strikes against me from the start: I had a mental illness, and I had been raped before. Apparently, if you have already been raped, they are less likely to believe you. I guess I should have stopped the guy beforehand. “Sorry, I’ve reached my rape quota. You’ll have to find someone else.”

    If I am am ever raped again, I will not report it. And fuck you if you think that makes me responsible for another rape. Reporting it did less than nothing to prevent my rapist from attacking another woman. And with something like a 6% conviction rate, that holds for almost every other rape victim.

    If a friend is ever raped, I will support her decision to report or not report. If she wants to report, I will help her through the process as best I can. I know for some women that reporting is an important step in the healing process. But I would never try to force a woman to do so. We do not yet live in a society where reporting is a good option for everyone.

    And you are absolutely right: they target women who are less likely to report or be believed if they do.

  48. says

    @ EEB:

    Here’s the thing: it would not have mattered if you had no disabilities and if you were the Homecoming Queen. As a woman, as a woman rape and assault victim, you would have been called a “liar” and treated the same way. That’s what Living While Female in this (shit-filled) “man’s world” really means. Because women aren’t human enough for any harm against us to matter. That is how it will ALWAYS be as long as we live under patriarchy and pro-natalism in which rapists’ sperm gets more rights than women’s lives. This is precisely why I tell other women atheists: I am first a woman, and because of all the extra punishments and injustices and oppression I am forced to live under every single fuckin’ day because of being a woman (and poor), I am first a woman, then a radical feminist, then an atheist — in that order. Every social movement throughout history would not have been possible without a lot of sacrifice and support from women. Yet, no one is ever there for us. No one else wants women to have even any bare minimal human rights. That is why women really need to start putting women first, and fuck-all to everyone and everything else until we get our basic human rights — at least. All evidence shows that after we’ve helped grow every other cause on the planet (atheism, religion, animal rights, socialism, labor rights, etc.) and helped garner rights for everybody else on the fuckin’ planet, NOBODY really supports OUR rights. Instead, the gratitude we got is stripped of what few hard-won rights that took us centuries (literally) to get in the first place (namely, the right to not be male property and the right to be liberated from rape and forced childbirth). DJ Grothe, as a gay man, benefited enormously from feminist support of LBGT rights as well as feminist support for his organization that gave him his nice cushy job, and even though he is a gay man, he as an upper-class white dude has more human rights in this country than a woman of ANY sexual orientation or social class. And he knows it. Yet, on Facebook he brushed aside the need for addressing sexual harassment outside of science because it’s not in his organization’s primary scope of interest. Think about that. Moral of the story: Put women’s rights and women’s interests first before ANY other movement (especially if it is male-dominated), because we need and deserve our rights and if we don’t fight for us no one else will. Andrea Dworkin was right.

  49. says

    This guest post from Amanda Marcotte was cross-posted from Greta Christina’s blog:

    “I’ve been working the feminist beat for years now, and have seen lots and lots of stories about sexual harassment and rape. I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. Not once. And that includes a case where there was a video of the assault where the victim was clearly so intoxicated as to be unable to move—some people thought she was dead—and the rapists assaulted her so badly she peed herself. That girl was called a liar and the usual cries of “more evidence needed” were issued, resulting in at least one and possibly two hung juries before they could get a conviction. Women are considered guilty until proven innocent, and the trick is that there’s no level of proof sufficient to win the argument with the “skeptics”.

    Our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying. How that obvious untruth got so ingrained is hard to really account for, but that’s true of many stereotypes that, no matter how ludicrous they are when you really look at them, are nonetheless widely believed. It’s also cross-cultural, thus the Muslim religious rule about rape not being believable without four male witnesses.

    Of course, the problem is that disbelieving accounts of rape and harassment as your initial stance is basically giving permission to rapists and harassers. Most of them know well enough to wait until they’re alone with the target to get aggressive. They know that when both they and the target walk away, the person whose account is given the benefit of the doubt—even past the point of ludicrousness—is theirs.”

    Feel free to read the interesting follow-up comments, too. The entire blog article and commentary is here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/19/without-being-called-a-liar

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